Thursday, 19 December 2013

A (Personal) HEMA Year in Review

It's Christmas. As an Englishman, that means indifferently chill rain, bad jumpers, and the constant threat of Cliff Richards playing from shops' speakers. Minced pies with brandy butter make it all worthwhile though.

The end of the year is also the traditional time to take stock and review, hence the spiking suicide and divorce rates.

How was this year of my HEMA journey? Successes and injuries defined it.

Key injuries:
  1. Broken foot - not HEMA, need to work up to fell running even if I can handle it muscle/cardio wise, it seems
  2. Crippled lower back - not HEMA - don't walk around on a broken foot
  3. Stabbed hand - alright, this one was HEMA - all the gear, all the time
  4. Wrenched neck - HEMA - don't spar with people who'll use "Halt!" as a chance to attack you as you lower your guard

Together they kept me from training for about 3 months or more. Physio sessions are good, it turns out, but doing what physios tell you once you're out and about is even better.

Key successes:
  1. Getting a medal in a medium sized tournament with some top people in it. Medals aren't everything, but the memory of having a really good day when techniques worked (except against Anton K), I was fit, and my head was right is a warm motivating fuzzy when they don't work, my body won't listen and my head is out of whack.
  2. Setting up a practice group more or less on the lines I think best. I don't think I'm instructor level in proficiency or understanding, but I believe I can still do some teaching of less experienced people and create an environment where coaching and development happen.
  3. Making friends from a bunch of different clubs and countries with attitudes to HEMA that I approve of. Self explanatory, although it's depressing that foreign expeditions were so necessary to "recharge my HEMA batteries".
  4. Hearing a training partner/student saying that a few months at the new group were better than the 4 years of HEMA she'd done before (it was mostly Mike's contribution), and then seeing her reach the SwordFish finals based almost 100% on said brief coaching (and some great cornering from Mike).
  5. Teaching a bit more outside of said group even if it was mostly quasi-HEMA like basic wrestling entries or jiujitsu groundwork.
  6. Getting to meet several research idols of mine at the Wallace Collection summer exhibition.
  7. Enjoying sitting out a tournament. After the aforementioned hand-stabbing, I couldn't hold longsword or buckler with my left, so I spent one and a half days watching tournaments at the event. I was delighted to find that without the sense of pressure and frustration that had overshadowed SwordFish for me, watching others' fight was delightful. A clearer and higher level of judging helped, of course, but I enjoyed stepping back and analysing styles and approaches.
  8. Judging/refereeing happened. I'm not much good as a grappling judge, but that's apparently in the upper echelons for HEMA in many places.
Things to improve next year:
  1. More isolated and integrated training at the group. While it began as a get together for sparring that was excluded from the lesson planning in other local groups, the dynamic seems to be including more 'introductory' level teaching as a number of long-term students from other groups have holes in their knowledge of the basics. I believe that a lot more of that is needed, as well as isolation and integration level drills. It's been nice to see us criticized by other groups for using "too much" aliveness though - once they're feeling paranoid and started misrepresenting you, you know you're doing something right, and there's a small flow of their students over to try our atmosphere out already...
  2. Read more sports psychology books, and more sports coaching, and integrate that. Happy so far to see we're doing a lot of things right. Still more to go. It ties in to the criticism mentioned above, that we're "sportifying" and developing our own made up tag-sword system. This isn't true - our approach is 100% based on specific sources and their systems - but sports do offer training methodologies and approaches that work, demonstratively.
  3. Look into alternative methods of structuring study time. I have a variety of ideas, but they'd need me to take more charge. Up until now, I've tried to avoid being a "leader" and just be a "facilitator", or a "coach" upon request. At least I've known people want me to teach!
  4. Attend less events, weirdly. With the group so far going well, I want to spend less time abroad and more time training locally. It's been a really busy year, with both ups and downs as a result of travel, and I've come close to burning out a couple of times - in some ways, injuries helped with that!
  5. Encourage others at the group to coach me back more. There are already some great people for this - I need to listen and work on things more.
  6. Meet Anton K in the finals, not the semi-finals, and score more than 1 point to his 3.
  7. Encourage interaction and cross-pollination with other groups, where they have similar positive and focused approaches.

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